June 6th, 2011 01:09 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State
Tags: NASA, Nick Bell, SEC, Toomer Corners
Last week at the SEC spring meetings, Dan Mullen successfully lobbied for Mississippi State to keep its cowbells. In one setting he told the story of deceased player Nick Bell’s mother ringing a cowbell as her son’s coffin was lowered into the ground. In another, he said he could “empathize with Auburn” because “somebody came in and tried to hurt one of their traditions.”
Naturally, in a society where everyone’s looking to be outraged, Mullen’s silly comparison between MSU’s cowbells and Auburn’s oaks at Toomer’s Corner has resulted in — wait for it — outrage.
Some Auburn fans are apparently upset because their trees are more important than State’s bells. Of course they are. Because they’re their trees. Flip the objects and the bells would be of greater importance.
Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News — who’s one of the best writers in the South, by the way — goes so far as to say Mullen “has insulted Auburn.”
Because he tried to compare two traditions that might be lost?
“It’s wonderful that Mullen has embraced the bell, but he should know that all ‘attacks’ on tradition aren’t created equal. There’s a big difference between enforcing an SEC rule that passed three decades ago and breaking the law.”
And if I thought Mullen had spent several days studying the finer parts of the law and was attempting to provide a full compare-and-contrast explanation of The Case of the Bells and versus The Case of the Trees I would agree with Scarbinsky. But Mullen is a football coach, not a lawyer. And he was making an off-hand comment in defense of his school’s biggest tradition. I take it for what it is — a poor comparison. And for all the anger, Mullen was actually trying to show that he could “empathize” with Auburn.
So let’s get this straight: A person can’t say “oh, they’re just trees” without insulting Auburn… but he’d better not say, “I can see how important those trees are,” either?
We took heat on this site for trying to explain the importance of the Toomer’s Corners’ oaks. We get it. But if Auburn backers and sportswriters are going to get their hackles up every time the trees are mentioned, then maybe some of those folks are just looking to be upset.
Ditto Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel who over the weekend took Nick Saban to task for saying “we lost a fine comrade” when he was asked about Jim Tressel last week. “Soldiers die for the love of their country,” Bianchi wrote (no doubt with his heart thumping cartoon-style through his chest and shirt).
So Bianchi thinks Saban really believes Tressel losing his job is equal to a soldier losing his life for his country? Please.
Coaches sometimes say dumb things because 1) most of them aren’t qualified to build rockets for NASA and 2) they’re giving off-the-cuff answers to hit-and-run questions. If these guys were running for president, it would be one thing. But they’re not even as important as the presidents at their own schools as we learned last week.
There will be times when we too are shocked and chagrined — thank you, Jackie Chiles — by coaches’ comments. In fact, we have repeatedly said that Mullen’s barbs and boasts have made him the closest thing to a Lane Kiffin remaining in the SEC.
But to be angered or insulted by what Mullen (or Saban) said last week? Sorry. We think some folks are just looking for reasons to be upset.
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